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Restaurants, Italian Lincoln Park
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(5user reviews)
Photograph: Erica Gannett Balena

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Between the warmth of the room and the compelling simplicity of Chris Pandel’s food, there is something especially comfortable about Balena, a collaboration between the Bristol and the BOKA Restaurant Group. Settle in with a few amaro cocktails (our pick: the Montenegro), share a pizza (mortadella with chili oil), don’t miss the smoked mackerel or gorgeous tagliolini nero, an uni, crab and chile pasta, and wrap things up with the tiramisu (a light and sophisticated take on the staple). Finally, fall asleep on a banquette. With any luck, nobody will wake you up.


Address: 1633 N Halsted St
Transport: El stop: Red to North/Clybourn. Bus: 8, 9, 72, 132.
Price: Average main course: $22
Opening hours: Dinner
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Users say (5)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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I came here for a group dinner, and we were seated at the private room downstairs. It was a remarkable room with it's own bar and one HUGE table. The room, like the rest of the restaurant, was decked out in rustic but classy decor. Along with the many lit candles, it really created an intimate and lovely ambiance. The food was fresh, healthy and finger-licking good. I was also impressed by the vast diversity in the menu. Much compliments to the Chef!


This rustic Italian spot was cute for a girl's night out. The space is absolutely gorgeous  - between the lighting and the vaulted ceilings I couldn't stop looking around! The server recommended a great wine to go with our food which was helpful as they have an enormous wine list. Unfortunately I was underwhelmed with the food, we ordered from their restaurant week menu and my favorite course was the dessert. Their homemade ricotta was lacking creaminess and my pasta was a bit too al dente for my liking. I'd love to give this place another try just to see what else they have to offer but over all I just wasn't impressed.


A fun place for family dinners and date nights, Balena is especially cute during the holidays with its Christmas tree centerpiece. I went here for an anniversary dinner, and we really enjoyed ourselves. The seasonal cocktails and pastas were my favorite. I loved my bourbon vanilla cocktail with spiced pear, and the pumpkin pasta with pancetta and cookie crumbles was incredible. We also split a fennel sausage pizza of nice size, which came with a spicy pepper sauce to drizzle on top. 


I went here last week with my parents and it was great! Their pasta is perfect and their pizza choices are great. The service was a bit slow, but I would definitely go again!

They have the best meatballs! Love the twinkly lighting in this restaurant, it is perfect for date night.